The Status Quo Bias: A Sales Conundrum

Challenging the status quo bias of any prospect is essential when trying to secure a sale – particularly when the prospect is already committed to a competing supplier. However, if not conducted well, challenging the status quo can have a detrimental effect on the sales outcome.


Status quo bias is a behavioural economics concept referring to an emotional preference for a situation as it currently stands. In the sales environment the status quo bias is seen when a prospect deflects sales approaches, as they see nothing wrong with their current situation.  


So, if a prospect is currently happy with what they have, what can a salesperson do to convince them they need a new product or service?

When you’re looking to steal market share from your competitors, it’s crucial to address the following causes of status quo bias in your messaging and contact: 

  • Change aversion – People don’t like change, so they’ll reject your solutions based on them being similar to what they’re already doing. It’s this uncertainty that you can tap into to start persuading the prospect to see things differently. In this case your message needs to disrupt their current way of thinking – and introduce unconsidered needs and solutions.

  • Perceived cost of change – It’s easy for a prospect to jump to the conclusion that any change from the status quo will cost them more in dollars and time, than staying with their existing solution. Therefore, your messaging needs to show clearly that there is greater cost involved in remaining with the existing solution than if they were to change to your solution. 

  • Too much choice – The amount of information on any solution can be overwhelming – so a prospect’s research into options available can turn into a complete information overload. Your prospect needs to see that your solution offers contrast to their current situation – and the contrast that you’re offering is more desirable. Contrast, communicated well, will show value. Show your prospect enough contrast to help them see there is value for them in change.

  • What if? – With status quo bias comes denial. A prospect may not consider that they have a problem that needs fixing – and they might be worried they’ll get the blame for changing something that wasn’t broken. The best way to address this is through sharing a case study of a success story about a client who didn’t think they had a problem, discovered they did and then successfully implemented your solution with great results. Emotional connection here is key – and making sure you make it clear that the success story client was just like them.


The table turns when you’re working to keep an incumbent customer. This is where you need to use status quo to your advantage and reinforce customer bias: 

  • Reinforce change aversion – Remind and document your customer of the results, impact and time they’ve put into working with your solution – and why they chose you.

  • Reinforce perceived cost of change – Highlight the financial and time investments they’ve made in committing to your solution. This should include things like onboarding, training, updating processes – what a hassle to go through all of that again!

  • Reinforce too much choice – Show your client how your solution has remained relevant, perhaps a leader, in the market. Remember contrast helps move people to change – so show how little contrast there is between your solution and those of your competitors.

  • Reinforce ‘what if?’ – “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, right? Highlight the risks and cost involved in embedding change. No one wants to be faced with regret: ask your client to consider what would happen if moving to a new solution failed – who would be responsible?

Working to use status quo bias in securing a new sale is completely the opposition of using status quo bias to your advantage when working to retain an existing client. This is one of the great sales conundrums – but tailoring your approach to your audience will certainly work to your advantage.